Fourth of July safety tips

Take a moment to think about all the different, seemingly imperceptible sounds your pet can hear. Not only can they hear within a larger range, the shape of their ears also helps them to pick up sounds that often escape our senses. Think then how loud a firework might be to your best friend, the same dog that can hear the shaking of a cookie jar 2 floors away or the mailman dropping off a package 20 doors down. Not surprisingly, dogs and fireworks can often be a frightful, anxious experience for your pet.
Shelters and animals rescues report taking in more strays during the 4th of July holiday than any other time of year. This statistic makes sense when you consider the way dogs react to fear and/or confusion. While some may choose to cower, hide and shake, others may attempt to flee – searching for their owners or simply attempting to escape the loud noises outside. A good indicator of how your dog may behave during a fireworks display is to gauge their behavior during a thunderstorm. If your dog typically paces or hides, it is likely they will do the same during a fireworks event.
However, there is always the possibility bizarre behaviors to appear. Some, otherwise calm dogs, may turn destructive or aggressive when confronted with loud, unfamiliar sounds. It’s best to make your dog’s fireworks safety a priority to help ensure they will remain cool, calm and collected while everyone else revels in the streets.
In an effort to keep our pets safe and comfortable at home while we celebrate July 4th, here’s a short list of tips to provide help an anxious dog during fireworks.
  • Be sure your pet has a collar with current ID tag. Having your pet microchipped is always a good idea. I don’t want to start off the list so “doom and gloom”, but it’s better to be safe than sorry.
  • Do not take your pets with you to events where there will be fireworks – unless you are 100% certain they will be non-reactive.
  • Find a secure, quiet place in your home for your pet to relax. If your pet is crate trained, crating is a good idea – you may want to move the crate to the quietest part of the house. I would also suggest keeping the room dark, leaving some chew toys with your pet and playing ambient noise from either a radio, TV or other device.
  • Pets should not be left outside during fireworks. Dogs have amazing abilities to scale fences and walls when scared, and your dog should be kept in a quiet, confined area in the home during fireworks.
  • Do not cuddle or reassure a dog that is scared. This will only reinforce the behavior for your pet and could make them more anxious. A better technique to deal with dog frightened by fireworks is to distract the dog with physical activity such as a game of tug or fetch. A chew toy can also be effective in the situation of an anxious pet – what you’re really looking for is something for them to be able to exert energy and calm themselves down.
  • Yelling at or reprimanding a frightened, anxious dog will not help the situation – in fact, it will most likely cause confusion. As the pack leader it is your responsibility to show your dog the “proper” way to behave. The best way for the pack leader to do this in the case of fireworks is to remain calm and as if you do not notice the noise outside.
  • Be mindful of the way you are handling your pet if they are frightened. Petting your dog and showing them affection while they are anxious or scared will most likely reinforce negative behaviors. A better strategy here is to give your dog a short, gentle massage or place your hand on their head as reassurance.
  • Going out of town? Make sure to leave your pets with a trustworthy, proven individual that understands the unique nature of this time of year. Even better – leave your dogs in the care of someone who will agree to stay home with your pets while the fireworks are going on if your dog has historically had a difficult time.
  • In the case of an escaped pet, contact your veterinarian/local veterinarian, emergency animal hospitals, shelters and animal control.
  • If you have found a stray pet, please also contact these resources above instead of attempting to track down an owner by yourself. Remember – not everyone checks Craigslist for a lost pet, nor would they see a “Found” poster in your neighborhood if they live more than a few towns over.